Review by Unleashed Vortex
"Shadow on the sun"
To be blunt, I hated Nintendo's approach to a 3-D Mario game. The idea of playing through the same level eight times, isn't exactly my idea of a fun game. Super Mario 64 is one of the most popular Mario titles, and arguably, games of all time. Its unique mixture of platforming and exploration was indeed a match that seemed to be made in heaven, but it was victim of its own circumstances. Levels, despite being large, were rather boring, enemies barely posed a threat and, although the game had the classic Mario atmosphere, it's reliance on playing through the same levels on eight separate occasions made missions rather stale and pointless. However, despite the revolutionary light it shined and the template which it provided for all 3-D platformers, it remains today, as a classic.
Flash forward a few years to the next generation! Sony's PS2 was dominating the gaming market, due to head start over its only true rival, Microsoft's juggernaut Xbox. Nintendo needed to crash into the scene with all of its guns blazing! Instead, we got a rather ugly looking box and Luigi's Mansion! Oh, boy! Obviously, a follow up to Mario 64 was expected to arrive shortly after, and it burst onto the scene packaged with the rather unusual title: Super Mario Sunshine. Since all Nintendo games are guaranteed to sell due to their strong and rather overly-sycophantic fan base, the fact that Super Mario Sunshine wasn't too fantastic didn't seem to matter.
It all starts with Mario, Princess Peach, (Princess Toadstool FTW!) and a selection of Toads flying over the Hawaiian like paradise of Isle Delfino, where Mario plans to indulge on sun, sand and sea. Well, he's earned it, I mean, for the last twenty years or so, he's had a pretty active schedule! I mean, when he's not saving the Princess from Bowser, he's either kart racing or playing sports! (Although, Mario should probably get a personal trainer, I mean, out of all of these years of playing miscellaneous sports, he's still a fat bastard.)
Anyway, Mario arrives at this tropical resort, finding it to be covered in a rather nasty paint. Not only does this suck, but the culprit of this rather heinous crime is posing as Mario to spoil his name! This bizarre watery clone of Mario is armed with a rather unpleasant magic brush, which he uses to paint this nasty graffiti throughout the island. Enraged by the vast amount of pollution to their blissful homes, the resident's of the Isle mistakenly blame Mario for the entire mess, take him prisoner and force him to clean up all of the goop that's ruining the entire island. This unfortunate turn of events has also forced the island's guardians, the shine sprites (a.k.a. new power stars) have been scattered across the island. Luckily, with Mario's new gadget, the FLUDD, a device that conveniently appears in the right place and the right time, he can clean the goop by simply spraying it with water.
However, don't mistake FLUDD for just any ordinary hose. With it strapped to his back, Mario can pull of an assortment of special manoeuvres. Obviously, its primary function is to clean, which can be done by simply spraying water at the required target, but other add-ons can be used to aid you in various ways. The secondary function allows Mario to shoot two streams of water directly down thus, allowing him to levitate for a short period of time. Need to jump over a large gap? No problem, with this tool, you can keep Mario airborne until your water supply dries up. As you progress, you'll be able to collect add-ons which change the secondary function of the FLUDD, including a booster which fires Mario sky high, which can actually hurt you if you plummet from a bigger drop, and propeller which allows you to run incredibly fast, so fast that you can run on water! However, despite sounding really fun, it's really horrible to control and the vast majority of the time, you'll see yourself running straight into a wall or an enemy.
Like Mario 64, this game has a central hub which offers a small selection of levels that you can enter and complete in your own order. Each level requires you to play through it eight times and complete a different mission on each occasion, which will allow you to obtain a shine sprite if you complete the mission successfully.. Unfortunately, it's the very core of this style which is fundamentally flawed; firstly, playing through the same levels, sometimes following the exact same path for two or three missions isn't very stimulating. Also, some of actual tasks that you are asked to complete, aren't exactly enjoyable. Three tasks that seem to be embedded in all of the game's levels include collecting eight red coins which are scattered around the entirety of the stage, can be incredibly dull, especially when you've been hunting the whole level for ages for the last one. Then, a lot of levels require you to simply chase shadow Mario around and squirt him with the FLUDD until he falls over, which is (a) incredibly easy and (b) extremely boring, especially after the seventh time. Also, another annoying thing is that these stages never really seem to progress in difficulty, you just do the same task over and over. Lastly, the other trend sees Mario's FLUDD device being harshly stole from him by Shadow Mario, forcing Mario to complete a frustratingly difficult special stage without it. These stages consist of rotating platforms, jumps that Mario can barely do without the help of the FLUDD device, springs that send you flying off the edge of the platform and various other unfriendly paraphernalia.
Other levels can require you to simply clean up large patches of paint using the FLUDD device. In other words, you sit and hold down the trigger on the back of the pad for about ten minutes solid as Mario sprays water until the paint clears up. Occasionally, you'll be attacked by crawling gloops of slime but with a simply twist of the analogue stick, and any threat they pose will be destroyed. Then, others can be quite the opposite and force you to tackle large obstacle courses, usually suspending you far from the ground. While levels like these have a potential to become rather enjoyable romps, the game's horrible interpretation of how a camera works comes in and ruins anything that shows the slightest pinch of amusement. The majority of the time, it'll be more interested in the seeing what's coming behind you other than what you're running from, which, as you can imagine, is as convenient as letting out a terrific fart at a funeral. However, it's when the bad camera and difficulty mix together where your problem resides. A lot of levels on this game are made a millions times harder due to the cameras awkward positioning. One stage where a huge manta ray made of that paint stuff approaches is an absolutely painful level due to the camera, mainly because you're surrounded by enemies and you have to worry about shifting the camera oddly was well as avoiding and spraying lots of enemies.
So far I've made this game sound rather unpleasant, and while the overall package isn't anything special, Super Mario Sunshine has a few moments which are generally enjoyable, and where the playful and creative imagination of Nintendo is very apparent. These levels are odd few that come in between those that are either collect coins/fight Shadow Mario/annoying secret obstacle course levels. One sees you fighting Petey Piranha, a rather large Venus flytrap, who's developed a habit of puking out Shadow Mario's trademark goop. Other really fun levels include a battle with a giant Mecha- Bowser, where you have to attach missiles onto your FLUDD's nozzle and spray them towards this giant mechanical beast. Unfortunately, events such as these are few and far and whenever an appealing event does approach, it's either ruined by the camera's rude behaviour, or by being either overly difficult or barely challenging enough.
I don't like the direction that these 3-D Mario games are going. Although, a lot of people loved Mario 64 and disliked Mario Sunshine, I can happily say that I find both games to be boring. Although, Mario Sunshine's horrible camera, rigidness in difficulty (one minute you're having and the whole concept of cleaning up gunk is enough to differentiate its poor quality from Mario 64, which was a dull in its own ways. Now, let's hope that Super Mario Galaxy will re-establish Mario to the iconic status he once had. However, judging by Nintendo's track record, I wouldn't hold your breath. Nintendo's once golden mascot is stumbling down a dreaded path. With boring 3-D games like this and a stack of droll sports and party games as a support, Mario s significance as a video game legend is slowly fading away. Time will tell whether he'll be able to regain his eighties and nineties popularity, however, with Miyamoto's head being currently stuck in the clouds, it's hard to see Mario performing any amazing comebacks anytime soon.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 03/22/07
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